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New Jersey Juries Not Required to Award Compensatory Damages

March 23, 2010

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In <i>Kozma v. Starbucks Coffee Company et al</i>., a 50-year old man slipped and fell after getting some coffee at Starbucks. The jury found Starbucks 60% liable and plaintiff 40% liable. Although the allocation of fault fell in plaintiff’s favor, the evidence that came out during trial, namely that plaintiff had prior work injuries similar to the injury claimed at the time of the Starbucks slip-and-fall, that plaintiff had traveled to both Florida and his home in the Poconos after the accident, and that he had even played a few rounds of golf, led the jury to return a verdict with no monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff.
Plaintiff disagreed, and appealed the verdict solely on the issue of damages, arguing that the instruction that the jury was allowed to return an award of zero dollars was erroneous. The Appellate Division found that the jury instructions were proper and deferred to the trial court jury and its “infusion of community notions of justice” into its verdict.
Thanks to Alison Weintraub for her contribution to this post.
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